Bringing the 3rd dimension to our online life

There’s no doubt that online fatigue (insert your digital conferencing tool of choice) is real — whether you’re in the workforce or an online learner. I miss the informal social moments: making a cup of tea for a colleague in the office, allowing my mind to reset while moving from one place to another. In moving online, we also lose the power of a shared environment and the use of that environment to encourage creative thought, for example. What was once 3D has become 2D.

Thinking about the impact of this change, I read through the notes I took during the Learning Environments for Tomorrow conference at Harvard’s Project Zero in 2016. I was struck by the challenge of recreating what Steelcase referred to as “Speed of thought tools” in digital working and learning environments. These tools include:

Information persistence: Using the environment to share and showcase important ideas in new ways. Think of detectives looking at a wall of picture and post-it clues when attempting to solve a crime.

Variety of postures: Inviting people to work standing, sitting at desks, or stationed at benches as they choose throughout the day. My favorite Airbnb maintains its rating with me because it offers a sunlit breakfast bar that’s perfect for work, a sofa that’s great for an informal call, and an insanely cozy sleeping loft.

Ceiling height: Providing bright rooms with high ceilings and natural light. This is hard to find in most homes — especially with children and parents vying for workspace.

A balance of digital and analog working and learning experience: Not every lesson in a school should be live; not every minute of the day should be taken up by Zoom calls.

Ultimately, Steelcase’s suggestions were hallmarks of 3D working and learning.

As we enter a new calendar year, and many of us enter our 11th month of living online, I’d like to share five of my resolutions to add greater dimensionality to online learning and leading.

Focus on engagement.

Maybe it’s the “nobody puts baby in a corner” personality of our team members, but we seem to be most effective and driven when we are working on passion projects. This year, I’d like to invert the 80/20 model and borrow from holacracy to keep engagement high. Why not invite colleagues to decide which projects they want to be involved with and to what extent of their 80 percent? And fill the gaps for their 20 percent?

Design meetings and workshops as experiences

Give people five minutes in the beginning to grab a coffee and a biscuit or piece of fruit. Ensure that there is a clear purpose, and use a wide range of tools to drive the agenda forward. Mural.co seems to release new online brainstorming and collaboration tools every week — and the activities on www.gamestorming.com work well in face-to-face, hybrid, and online meetings and workshops.

Balance physical and mental activity.

Set up more camera-off, walking zooms.

Send more (small) gifts.

I have always been one of those people bringing in cookies, brownies, scones, or the occasional pie. Recently, I’ve started sending small, physical gifts to colleagues and friends — a basket of fruit to nibble on during the day, an old-fashioned book for some screen-time downtime.

Send the team and project partners sketch pads. In April, I started to keep a sketch pad next to my laptop. Something about problem-solving or even note-taking on the wide-open canvas of the paper with freshly sharpened pencils seemed to sharpen my thinking as well.

Please share your ideas in the comments.

Co-founder @MiraiPartners.